Gov. Jan Brewer announced her intention to expand Medicaid with funds from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in her State of the State address Monday.
The PPACA, frequently nicknamed “Obamacare,” was passed by Congress in 2010. The bill requires all Americans to carry health insurance and establishes exchanges in which they can easily compare premiums and coverage of different plans. The Supreme Court upheld the law’s constitutionality in June.
Brewer, who has been outspoken in her disapproval of President Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation, said the Medicaid expansion would prevent Arizona tax dollars from being redirected to other states.
The expansion will increase coverage to rural and low-income Arizonans. Brewer said Arizona voters have twice mandated this expansion, but the Legislature has not followed through.
Brewer acknowledged that the PPACA is something the state cannot ignore.
“Nor can we simply wag our finger at the national government. Trust me, I tried that once,” she said.
However, Brewer expressed concerns that the federal government will slowly reduce its subsidy to shift more of the financial burden of the PPACA to states. These concerns were part of her decision-making process when planning the Medicaid expansion.
“I worried that any expansion of Medicaid, no matter the federal subsidy, would incur costs the state cannot afford,” she said.
To defend against rising costs, Brewer’s expansion will include a fee levied on providers and a “circuit breaker” provision to prevent overspending.
The governor said more details about the expansion would be released in few days and requested support from the state Legislature.
“I’m committed to doing this, and I want you on my side,” Brewer said.
She announced plans to work with Cindy McCain, philanthropist and wife of Sen. John McCain,to reduce human trafficking across the Arizona-Mexico border.
Brewer asked legislators to make immigration their first priority, saying that reform should combine law and compassion. She called on Obama to fulfill his promise of tightening the borders.
Before Brewer’s address began, supporters of the DREAM Act, which would extend conditional citizenship to undocumented people brought to the U.S. as minors, protested at the House of Representatives building. Department of Public Safety officers arrested three of the protesters.
The governor’s speech mainly focused on making Arizona more competitive.
Brewer reflected on Arizona’s first 100 years as a state and referred to Arizona’s traditional five “C’s” of industry: cattle, cotton, citrus, climate and copper.
“Our second century will hinge on another ‘C:’ competition,” Brewer said.
The Brewer administration plans to focus its reforms on adding caseworkers to Child Protective Services, simplifying sales taxes and raising education standards.
The new executive budget will add 150 new CPS caseworkers for this year, but Brewer requested an emergency budget approval to add 50 more caseworkers immediately.
Brewer’s goal is to decrease the number of cases handled by each caseworker, so more individualized attention can be given to Arizona’s abused and neglected children.
The governor will simplify the tax code based on the report of her appointed committee, led by Senate Majority Leader John McComish, R-Ahwatukee and House Whip Rick Gray, R-Sun City.
Brewer wants to institute a program that will raise standards and accountability for Arizona schools while maintaining local control, she said.
“Whatever your point of view, we all agree we should start funding the academic performance we want to see,” Brewer said.
The governor said the state budget is balanced and $450 million have been saved in the state’s rainy day fund.
Brewer said she was “filled with optimism.”
“It is the kind that comes from knowing our cause is just and our path is true,” she said.
Democrats of the state Legislature were hopeful about the new direction the Brewer administration is taking with regard to social programs, according to a Senate-House joint Democrat press release.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @amy_medeiros